Sri Lanka: Youth engagement in policymaking and implementation


UNLOCKED, a youth and development themed blog, is started
The Youth LEADs initiatives, a programme to integrate and strengthen UNDP Sri Lanka's work on youth and innovations, has been piloted
Two social innovation hackathons attracting hundreds of tech-savvy youth have been held.



UNDP Sri Lanka's Youth and Innovation journey began in 2014 with the launch of the Sri Lanka National Human Development Report on Youth and Development and the launch of the Asia Pacific Regional Innovations Fund.

Throughout the course, online tools has been leveraged, offline meetings have been organized, young talents have been spotted and recruited, and new parterships have been established.

Watch the video above, or click on the image below, to check out the details of the thrilling timeline of achievements. 

 Timeline of Youth & Innovation in UNDP Sri Lanka. Click on the image to enlarge for details.

Youth in Sri Lanka


Young people aged 15-29 make up over a fifth of Sri Lanka’s total population, and with the end of the 30 year civil conflict in the country, issues such as youth unemployment, political participation and investment in higher education have become critical issues.

According to the National Youth Survey 2013, which was featured in the National Human Development Report (NHDR), 88% of Sri Lanka’s youth populous stated that they are interested in the current affairs and socio-economic developments taking place around them, but the very same individuals are disengaged and uninvolved, with only a meagre 5% of them actively engaged and fulfilling their civic responsibilities.


HackADev: Social Innovation Hackathons


With the existing levels of inequality and disparity within the country, combined with vulnerability to natural disasters and the need for greater support for entrepreneurship and employment, the key solutions to some of these development challenges in Sri Lanka can be found in the techno-social innovation.

UNDP Sri Lanka has hosted two social innovation hackathons. Over 300 creative and technologically savvy young Sri Lankans joined the first in Colombo, to develop solutions to challenges around civic engagement, electronic waste management, and employmentThe second, in Badulla, focused on region-specific challenges of the Uva province.

The hackathons are in partnership with Dialog Axiata, one Sri Lanka’s largest private telecommunication companies. 

Check out some of the Facebook albums that documented the vibe of the events:

HackaDev: Impact through Innovation Launch

Hackadev 2015: Final Hacking

Problem Definition at Impact Uva

Second hackathon <Impact Uva>



National Human Development Report


Every call for the youth of Sri Lanka to voice their opinion should be seen by the youth as a gateway to shaping the society they want to have tomorrow. The National Human Development Report 2014 launched on the occassion of the International Youth Day (12 August 2014) is one such summoning. 

NHDR 2014 has been leveraged to foster national debate on some of the burning issues faced by the youth in Sri Lanka. It has also provided the young people with the much-needed and heavily sought-after knowledge necessary to express their views, alongside the opportunities to exchange ideas, particularly on the potential solutions to pressing national issues.

5 key areas of recommendations outlined in the NHDR are introduced in the video below:




The ‘Unlocked’ Project, an initiative by UNDP Sri Lanka following the launch of the National Human Development Report (NHDR) 2014, is a youth and development-themed online platform exclusively for young voices, with the aim of creating positive change in the world.

Since August 2015, DailyFT, a leading national financial newspaper, publishes the blogs as special feature on a weekly basis, which helps take the young voices further. 

A few examples of the UNLOCKED blogs:

Feminism, Young Women and Development

Lesser Known Stats about Sri Lanka’s System of Education

The Private Sector: A Solution to Youth Unemployment in Sri Lanka

Lacuna and Disruptive Access to Sex and Reproductive Health Awareness Reduces Quality of Life amongst Adolescents.

To read more and the latest, check out the UNLOCKED page.


Facebook Engagement

 UNDP Sri Lanka Facebook campaign for youth engagement

“Are youth active participants or passive recipients? According to the NHDR 2014, engagement through voting amounted to 72 per cent while active engagement only amounted to 5 per cent. Why and how do we improve?” 

After this question was posted on Facebook, quite a number of young people were keen to speak out and make their voices heard. Among the key issues they highlighted were the need for the space for participation and an enabling environment. 

The discussion helped build a groundbreaking platform for youth engagement, which led to a offline meet-up during the Social Good Summit.


Social Good Summit - Youth Meet-Up


Linking up with the Social Good Summit themed "Connecting for Good", UNDP Sri Lanka partnered with the Global Shapers Colombo Hub and organized a youth meet-up titled “Civic and political youth participation and the use of technology with a view of #2030NOW”.

During the meet-up, youth participants were asked to share their views on why there is a low level of youth participation and how we can improve this. See their answers below:


The youth participants also shared updates and their views on Twitter using #SGS2014 #YouthnDev #2030NOW hashtags to create a trend for youth participation and raise awareness on the issue. 

According to many at the meet-up, loss of faith in the system has been a key reason for poor engagement rates on the part of youth. They also felt that the environment for participation could be more enabling, safer and inclusive. Integrating civic education into formal and informal learning, and creating awareness programmes as a means to educate the public and youth on their duties, civic and political rights and the electoral process were strongly propositioned during the meet-up as way of encouraging youth participation.


Youth LEADs


Youth LEADS programme was piloted at UNDP Sri Lanka to engage with and invest in youth for development. 

Four young professionals have been recruited under the UNV Youth Volunteer Modality and will support UNDP Sri Lanka Country Programme for a duration of 12 months in its youth-related policy, programming, advocacy, innovation and outreach work.

The programme provides a learning and development opportunity to empower Sri Lankan youth. By supporting UNDP programme initiatives, the youth are expected to be familiarized with UNDP’s work and given a holistic experience of the organization.



Page last updated: Jan 10, 2016

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